BJP’s man for Kashmir poll stresses tourism, job creation (IANS Exclusive)

New Delhi, Aug 20 (IANS) The BJP is looking to bring economic prosperity and jobs in the Valley before troublemakers create disenchantment among people. Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked about an aspirational Kashmir. IANS has got a sneak peek on what the ruling party has in mind to fulfil the aspirations.

BJP sources say it will be an economic rejuvenation in two stages. Before bringing investment from the entertainment and manufacturing industry in the second phase, the party wants to build a conducive atmosphere where investors feel assured. And that’s where the first phase comes in place. BJP has actively chalked out three areas for the first phase: tourism, religious tourism, and medicinal herbs.

Avinash Rai Khanna, who has been appointed as BJP’s election in-charge for Jammu and Kashmir, has written a letter both to the J&K Governor as well as Union Tourism Minister Prahlad Singh Patel urging them to promote tourism in the state. “Kashmir is known for tourism. The first way to bring economic revival to the state is to use this sector as much as possible”, said Khanna.

Another sector the BJP stresses is the medicinal herbs. This is an area of particular interest to the BJP. Interestingly, yoga guru Ramdev had said way back in 2017 that his FMCG brand Patanjali wanted to acquire 150-acre land in Jammu and Kashmir, and would be offering jobs to Kashmiri youth. The idea was to cash in on the huge herbal medicine potential of the state. Article 35A didn’t allow non-kashmiris to buy land in Kahsmir, a prime reason Ramdev’s Patanjali dream couldn’t take off. But now with that obstacle gone, if Ramdev decides to set up a unit in the Union Territory of J&K, it will result in generating jobs for the local people.

But apart from the two-pronged approach, the BJP is also keen to promote what it calls ‘religious tourism’. The party wants the Modi government to give a fresh lease of life to many temple towns that were once popular. For example, a BJP leader cited Gauri Kund. “It has a unique architecture resembling that of a cow’s breast. People visit that place. But many from outside J&K will have no idea that this place exists. If it can be brought back to life and given due attention, not only a new tourist destination will emerge that will generate jobs but also a forgotten past of the state will be resurrected,” said a BJP leader. Apart from Gauri Kund, Sudh Mahadev and Mantalai are also on the list that the BJP envisions to popularise.

“Since independence, Kashmiris have celebrated Independence Day with two flags. This is the first time they have celebrated it with only one flag. They are embracing abrogation of Article 370 and 35A. Now, its our duty to bring economic prosperity to the state and its people. Tourism, religious tourism and herbal medicine is the way to begin with”, said Khanna.

Given the stature of Khanna in the central BJP, as far as Jammu and Kashmir election is concerned which is expected to be held before this winter, his words bear enough weight.



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